There are some highly dubious tourist attractions in South America as you will have gathered by now, and that is especially the case in Bolivia. The first of these attractions is the San Pedro prison in the centre of La Paz and the second of which is the ‘Death Road’ downhill bike ride.
The death road is also known as the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’, with good reason as it had the highest death rate of any road in the world, claiming 200–300 lives every year. It is now out of action and is only used by tour groups who offer the macabre cycle ride to backpackers.
The second most dangerous road is in Afghanistan and goes through Taliban territory but that it is not the reason it is so dangerous, it is followed by Alaska and then Pakistan and Chinese roads take the fourth and fifth place. Not entirely surprising given the rugged territory of these countries.
Bolivia’s North Yungas road bike ride is almost obligatory so we went along and did it. I couldn’t complete it due to a problem with my bike because we went with the cheapest company of all for only £25.
The only company with a safety procedure in place offered it for £80 which shows that our provider was pretty dire. Everyone had to wear a puffy boiler suit, boots and a helmet for ‘protection’.
The official provider is trained to rope you out if you go over the edge, I’m not sure if that would help if you’d broken all the bones in your body but still better than nothing. There are loads of cowboys out there, one of the wheels of the Argentinian’s bikes came off and they gave him my old bike with the busted brake which he also rejected. Luckily they had one more bike but if that had broken he would have to have sat in the back with me.
Apparently, the downhill driver did not have right of way and had to move to the outside edge to let others pass. I just don’t know how any cars could have passed each other on this road as it is so thin.
When I was in the van behind the cyclists there were times when we were inching along as there was barely anywhere to manoeuvre and the tyre was over the edge of the road. Some of these tight spots also had small waterfalls down the rocks making them slippery and more perilous.
There are so many horror stories about the road as you go along the Gringo trail, I heard that an Israeli girl went over the edge on purpose after a break-up and I did see a Jewish gravestone (amongst others) on the route.
I also heard about people breaking wrists and arms, including an Australian bloke who went over his handlebars and broke both his arms. Someone I used to work with knocked her front teeth out.
The good news is that they take you to a guest house at the end in the village of Yolosa and you get to have a beer, a swim and a buffet before heading back to the cesspit of La Paz.